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Obiageli Ezekwesili

Bank VP Obiageli Ezekwesili on the importance of the capital increase

Angie Gentile's picture

 
This weekend, shareholders gathered for the Spring Meetings in Washington, DC, will decide on a request to replenish the World Bank Group’s capital base. The request comes in the wake of unprecedented demands for the Bank’s financial assistance stemming from the global economic crisis.

In a recent speech at Harvard University, Africa Region Vice President Obiageli Ezekwesili outlined the importance of the capital increase as a critical source of funding for the International Development Association (IDA), the concessional window of the World Bank that provides grants and interest-free credits to low-income countries; the majority of which are in Africa. IDA will be seeking its 16th replenishment in 2011.

Africa’s infrastructure: closing the 'efficiency gap'

Angie Gentile's picture

Rural water pump near Ulundi, South Africa. Photo: Trevor Samson/World Bank African countries lag behind their developing country counterparts on infrastructure, and the gaps are only widening over time. One of today’s keynote panels took a deep look at ways to close that gap.

Instead of defaulting to a call for more money, panelists talked about what’s impeding effective use of funds, both public and private, that are made available for infrastructure development on the continent.

To put the conversation into context, here are a few key stats:

  • Africa needs $93 billion a year to catch up with its huge infrastructure backlog over the next decade—an amount that represents more than 35 percent of GDP for fragile states.
  • Current spending on African infrastructure is higher than previously thought, at $45 billion.
  • An estimated cost savings of $17 billion—the so-called “efficiency gap”—could be achieved if existing resources were used more efficiently.

Youth Unemployment in Africa

Nina Vucenik's picture


Laborer working on an irrigation project. Tanzania. Photo: Scott Wallace / World BankExperts on youth and employment from Ghana, Kenya, Mali, and Colombia met on Saturday as the Spring Meetings got underway to discuss the growing problem of youth unemployment in Africa. The high-level panel, chaired by Obiageli Ezekwesili, World Bank vice president for the Africa Region, agreed that there are no easy solutions to the problem.


“Youth in urban areas are looking for jobs alongside thousands of others from the same schools, while rural youth are flooding into the cities looking for work,” said Sanoussi Toure, the Minister of Finance of Mali. “This is a tragedy. Our policies favor investment in education and training, but this investment has not led to job creation.”

Key points that came out of the meeting included:

  • There are no easy solutions to the problem of youth unemployment. 
  • Youth employment has to be part of the growth strategy of every African country.
  • Employment policies need to favor investment in education and training.

 

Portrait of woman. Kenya. Photo: © Curt Carnemark / World Bank The panel also included Mauricio Cárdenas, former Colombian Minister of Transport and Economic Planning. Cárdenas talked about the outcomes of two youth programs Colombia put in place during his country's economic crisis in the late 1990s, when external shocks drove unemployment from 10 to 20 percent, and youth unemployment to 30 percent.

It is clear that youth unemployment in Africa needs to be addressed from many entry points, Ezekwesili said in her concluding remarks.

“The profile of unemployed youth has to enter the way we think, just as gender has. Youth need to be effectively targeted in everything we do, so that they will have a stake in the future,” Ezekwesili said.

Story: Youth Unemployment a Major Challenge for African Countries